Sunday, March 31, 2013

Miracles still happen today: an update on my neighbour

A little while ago I blogged about my neighbour, who was suddenly diagnosed with acute leukemia, and was rushed off to the hospital. Some of you have asked how he's doing.

I am happy to report that MIRACLES STILL HAPPEN TODAY!

A few weeks ago he was literally on death's door, with his liver and kidney's having shut down and his heart on his way out as well. He sunk into a coma that the doctors said he wasn't likely to come out of. During that time my wife and I and many others have prayed like mad that he would turn a corner and be healed, whether permanently or for a season to take care of some loose ends on Earth. We also prayed that even in his coma he would have an experience with God, would have reconciliation.

Well, let me tell you that God is a God who answers prayer. Our neighbour returned from death's door, awoke out of his coma, and is now walking and talking. He reported that while in his coma he had an experience with Jesus where he met and talked with Him, that he re-surrendered his life to Jesus and said "your will be done". Instantly, he was flooded with peace, and the next day is when his body turned a corner and he regained strength.

So let that encourage you as you may be walking through your own difficult time. Cling to Jesus. He does answer prayer, and miracles still happen!

I also leave you with a picture from my family's recent holidays to Oregon, to Smith Rock State Park. We absolutely loved the beauty of this cold and windy place, where the rocks tower high above with their sheer majesty. How can we not worship God and believe in His power when we look at the world around us?

May God bless you this Easter season and give you a deep faith that He is real, that He is at work in your life. May He open your eyes to His touch in the world around you, whether in nature, in your relationships, or perhaps walking with you through a dark valley holding your hand. May He assure you that He is listening to your prayers, and He loves you with every part of His being!

In Christ,


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Saturday, March 30, 2013

Filled with deep emotion: My review of "Ordinary Grace" by William Kent Krueger @WmKentKrueger @SimonSchusterCA

Ordinary Grace: A Novel

about the book...

“That was it. That was all of it. A grace so ordinary there was no reason at all to remember it. Yet I have never across the forty years since it was spoken forgotten a single word.”

New Bremen, Minnesota, 1961. The Twins were playing their debut season, ice-cold root beers were selling out at the soda counter of Halderson’s Drugstore, and Hot Stuff comic books were a mainstay on every barbershop magazine rack. It was a time of innocence and hope for a country with a new, young president. But for thirteen-year-old Frank Drum it was a grim summer in which death visited frequently and assumed many forms. Accident. Nature. Suicide. Murder.

Frank begins the season preoccupied with the concerns of any teenage boy, but when tragedy unexpectedly strikes his family— which includes his Methodist minister father; his passionate, artistic mother; Juilliard-bound older sister; and wise-beyond-his-years kid brother— he finds himself thrust into an adult world full of secrets, lies, adultery, and betrayal, suddenly called upon to demonstrate a maturity and gumption beyond his years.

Told from Frank’s perspective forty years after that fateful summer, Ordinary Grace is a brilliantly moving account of a boy standing at the door of his young manhood, trying to understand a world that seems to be falling apart around him. It is an unforgettable novel about discovering the terrible price of wisdom and the enduring grace of God.

My review....

I must admit that I absolutely treasure stories told from the perspective of a child, young or old. I love the naive eyes through which children look at the world, but also deeply feel their heartache when they encounter hurts and darkness as well. Ordinary Grace swept me up into the world of thirteen-year-old Frank Drum, and it is a story that held me in its grip until the very last page. Krueger has painted a unique and likable character in Frank, a young man who is all boy, and one who wrestles with death and dying, seeking to understand the conflicting feelings within him, struggling to define his own beliefs about God and the meaning of life. The characters are richly drawn, and the story unfolds with the sensitivity of a skilled writer, making you forget about the world around you as you find yourself completely absorbed by Frank's tale. The scenes flow effortlessly from one to another, invoking deep emotion that left me battling tears on several occasions.  The author explores difficult themes within the book, themes of grief and loss, of suicide and murder, but also casts light on the beauty of faith, of hope, of love. Several times I paused to read a passage over, enjoying the deep truth that is conveyed, such as when Frank's father states "In your dark night, I urge you to hold to your faith, to embrace hope, and to bear your love before you like a burning candle, for I promise that it will light your way. And whether you believe in miracles or not, I can guarantee that you will experience one. It may not be the miracle you've prayed for. God probably won't undo what's been done. The miracle is this: that you will rise in the morning and be able to see again the startling beauty of the day".

Ordinary Grace is a novel that offered more than I expected, exquisitely portraying the beauty and power of grace. I highly recommend this extraordinary read and award it 5 out of 5 stars.

A copy of this book was provided by the publisher, Atria Books, a division of Simon & Schuster, for the purposes of this unbiased review. 

about the author...

William Kent Krueger
William Kent Krueger is the award-winning author of twelve previous Cork O’Connor novels, including Northwest Angle and Trickster’s Point, as well as the novel Ordinary Grace. He lives in the Twin Cities with his family. Visit his website at

Buy the Book

Friday, March 29, 2013

Get the Hell out of your eyes

Sometimes I hear God say "Just stop it already!"

Stop what, you may ask? Good question. 

I don't know about you, but all too often when I look at myself, it's certainly not God's eyes I'm looking through. It's my own, eyes that are filled with doubt and condemnation and judgment, eyes filled with the lies of Hell.

So I hear God saying "Stop looking at yourself through the wrong eyes! Try looking through mine."

Now, that's easier said than done. There is a sort of strange comfort in wallowing in darkness, in thinking "I'm not worth much anyway". We're used to those voices that started whispering way back in our childhood, "you're a loser!", "you're ugly!", "you can't do anything right!", "you've messed up too bad for God to love you", "you're NEVER going to change", "it's all your fault!". If I just let myself stay in that place, then I don't have to expect too much of myself. So I look in the mirror and I don't see a precious child of God. I see failure. I see ugliness. I see a bad husband, a bad husband.

Well, no more!

I have decided to crawl up into God's lap, to curl up next to Jesus and say, "Okay, I'm ready. Help me! Help me stop looking at myself through my own eyes. Take the Hell out of my eyes, and give me yours instead".

Something interesting happens when I do that. All sorts of promises pour into my soul...

"I am fearfully and wonderfully made" (Psalm 139:14)

I realize that God formed me exactly the way he wanted me, and that I'm wonderfully indeed. I see that if I look at myself and think I have nothing to offer, then I'm making a mockery of all that God made me to be, gifts that God gave to me. I can't take credit for a gift, after all, so why do I feel the need to make myself less? How can I look at myself and think "I'm ugly!" or "I'm not worth much!" when I didn't make myself? How could I look God in the eye and tell him he did a bad job making me?

    "There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus" (Romans 8:1) 

I am absolutely, 100% forgiven. Each day is a new day, and the sin of yesterday is gone. God doesn't condemn me. Why should I? I am free!

    “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5)

I am never alone and God will never give up on me. God is always, always with me, and he will never leave me to handle things on my own. I CAN do all things through Christ who strengthens me!

You have been set free from sin and have become slaveto righteousness (Romans 6:18)

When I feel like I'm never going to stop sinning, I need to claim this promise, that I am NOT a slave to sin, that sin can be overcome in Jesus' power. What an amazing promise! I can, indeed, change, by the Holy Spirit working powerfully within me.


So, here is my encouragement to you. If you, like me, are having trouble getting Hell out of your eyes, then turn to Jesus, crawl up in his lap, and ask him to replace your eyes with His own. Cling to the promises of Jesus every single day. Your life will be changed!

~ in Christ,


Instill godly truth in your preschooler with this excellent choice: My review of "The Preschooler's Bible" by Beers

The Preschooler's Bible

about the Bible....

The Preschooler’s Bible by Gill Beers returns to delight a whole new generation with beautiful new illustrations by Tammy Lyon.

First published in 1994, the classic, best-selling The Preschooler’s Bible offers the ideal follow-up to The Toddler’s Bible. Over 100 stories include classics, such as the flood, and less-often told stories, such as Solomon’s request for wisdom.

With thoughtful questions and captivating writing, this book suits story time, bedtime, or family devotions. And vibrant new illustrations by Tammy Lyon add even more opportunity for Bible discovery. More than a Bible story book, The Preschooler’s Bible offers parents and Church workers a resource that takes little hearts beyond just hearing the Bible’s stories to learning to discover God’s truths for themselves.

my review....

Filled with warm and colorful illustrations, and featuring all of your preschooler's favorite Bible stories, The Preschooler's Bible is a wonderful option for you to introduce to your children aged 3 to 5. My own children love looking through the beautiful illustrations accompanying the stories, especially enjoying how the illustrator has depicted Jesus, both as a child and as an adult. The stories are written in simple language that children will easily follow, and I especially enjoyed how the author would often add a question into the story, one that draws the children into the events that are happening. For example, in the story of Jesus feeding the 5000, the story starts with a question of "How would you like to make lunch for 5,000 people? That's a lot of lunch, isn't it?" Parents who pause in the story to actually allow their children to answer the questions will find that their children are really connecting with what is being read to them. The stories are also written in such a way as to leave the little listener with a take-away truth,such as teaching children that God will help us when we need him (such as in the story of Samson), or the importance of thanking God (such as in the story of the 10 lepers where only one returns to thank Jesus for healing them). What I most love about this children's Bible is that it clearly depicts Jesus' work on the cross, when he died to take away our punishment, out of his great love for us. Children can listen to the stories and come away with a solid beginning understanding of God's amazing love and power and grace. What more could a parent ask for?

If you are looking for a children's Bible that will both entertain your children while teaching them godly values and truths, then consider The Preschooler's Bible. You will be glad you did! 4.5 out of 5 stars.

A copy of this Bible has been provided courtesy of the publisher, David C. Cook, for the purposes of this unbiased review.

about the author & illustrator....

V. Gilbert Beers V. Gilbert Beers (Th.D., PhD.) has spent a lifetime encouraging readers to delight in the Scriptures through his over 140 books, ranging from children's Bibles to reference works. The Victor Journey through the Bible is the product of nine visits to the Holy Land, including a research trip to take photographs for this work. He is currently president of Scripture Press Publications, Inc.

Dr. Beers has been happily married for 53 years and is the father of five grown children. Dr. Beer is also the grandfather of eleven!

Image of Tammie Lyon
Tammie Lyon is the award winning illustrator of numerous picture books for children. Let’s Hear It For Almigal was just awarded the Mom’s Choice Award Gold Medal Winner for 2012. Tammie lives in Cincinnati, Ohio with her husband Lee, and loves spending the day in her studio with her dogs Gus and Dudley. She began her love of illustrating at a very young age while drawing at the kitchen table with her dad. She has fond memories of sitting for hours drawing things around the house and later presenting them as gifts to her mother. Since she was an only child, drawing became a favorite form of self-entertainment.



Wednesday, March 27, 2013

A perfectly delightful tale for girls: My review of "The Very Fairy Princess Follows Her Heart" by Julie Andrews

The Very Fairy Princess Follows Her Heart

about the book...

It's Valentine's Day, one of Geraldine's favorite times of year! She gets out her very best glitter to make cards for her family and friends at school, trying extra hard to think of ways to showcase all of their special qualities. But when Gerry gets to school and realizes she accidentally took a folder of Daddy's work papers instead of the cards she worked so hard on - oh no! - she can't help but be disappointed. Thankfully, her teacher helps her find an extra special way to celebrate the inner sparkle of each of her friends.

Another heartwarming Very Fairy Princess adventure from bestselling mother-daughter team Julie Andrews and Emma Walton Hamilton, beautifully illustrated by Christine Davenier.

my review...

They often say not to judge a book by its cover, but I think in this case, that would be entirely appropriate! My daughters were absolutely spellbound by the glittery artwork gracing the cover of this beautiful book, and they were equally pleased to dive into this wonderful story. They immediately identified with Gerry and her love of all thins sparkly and glittery, and they especially loved that she sings while she works (something my daughters can definitely relate to). They laughed at the scene where Gerry is emptying her dresser looking for just the right thing, leaving a mess on the floor - after all, how many times have they, the little princesses, forgotten to tidy their own rooms? And they absolutely cheered Gerry on as she spoke encouraging words to every person in her class, and then got to celebrate the perfect Valentine's Day with her class and someone special who just happened to pop by - her Daddy.

The Very Fairy Princess Follows Her Heart is delightful through and through, containing a positive message about being a good friend and sharing encouraging words (even for a boy in her class who she doesn't get along with!), accompanied by wonderful pictures and artwork. Although the book contains a Valentine's theme, it's appropriate for every day of the year - and I have no doubt I'll be reading this book with my children many a time between now and next Valentine's Day!

I highly recommend this children's book and award it 5 out of 5 stars.

Book has been received courtesy of the publisher, Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, for the purposes of this unbiased review.

about the authors...

JULIE ANDREWS EDWARDS is one of the most recognized and beloved figures in the entertainment industry. Her legendary career encompasses the Broadway and London stages, blockbuster Hollywood films, award-winning television shows, multiple album releases and concert tours and the world of children's publishing.

Image of Julie AndrewsAndrews' dedication to children has been steadfast throughout her career. She began writing books for young readers over thirty-five years ago and her first two novels - MANDY and THE LAST OF THE REALLY GREAT WHANGDOODLES - remain in print and in high demand. Her other books include the LITTLE BO series, and over 20 picture books, novels and Early Readers co-authored with her daughter, Emma Walton Hamilton, including the best-selling DUMPY THE DUMP TRUCK series, SIMEON'S GIFT, DRAGON: HOUND OF HONOR, THE GREAT AMERICAN MOUSICAL, THANKS TO YOU: Wisdom from Mother and Child (#1 NY Times Bestseller), the VERY FAIRY PRINCESS series (#1 NY Times Bestseller), and the poetry anthologies JULIE ANDREWS' COLLECTION OF POEMS, SONGS AND LULLABIES and JULIE ANDREWS' TREASURY FOR ALL SEASONS.

Together the best-selling mother-daughter team head-up "The Julie Andrews Collection" publishing program, dedicated to publishing quality children's books which nurture the imagination and cultivate a sense of wonder.

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Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Left me longing for just one more chapter: My review of "The One Good Thing" by Kevin Alan Milne

The One Good Thing: A Novel

about the book...

For as long as Halley Steen has known her husband Nathan, he has carried a handful of stones in his pocket. Each day he uses those stones to remind him to follow the Golden Rule, moving a stone from one pocket to the other with each act of kindness. So it's not unusual that Nathan stops to help a stranger on the side of the highway while on his way to his son's football game one Friday evening. But that one act will change all of their lives forever, when a car hydroplanes off the road, killing Nathan instantly.

As Halley and her children Ty and Alice struggle with their grief, Nathan's spiritual legacy lives on. A Facebook page appears, where countless stories about Nathan's selfless acts are shared. But among them is one that stands out, from a woman who says that Nathan saved her life. Neither Halley nor her children have ever heard of Madeline Zuckerman. But soon Halley discovers years of e-mails from this woman to her husband on his computer that refer to "our little girl." How could her husband have kept the secret of this other child for their entire marriage? Why had he lied to her? Was he not the man she thought he was?

Only thirteen-year-old Alice maintains unwavering faith in her father. She knows there's an explanation. When she sets out to find Madeline and learn the truth, she will start to unravel the complex story of The One Good Thing Nathan Steen did that had the greatest impact of all.

my review...

I challenge you to read this book and not to shed a tear at some point! Written with deep emotion and filled with many poignant moments, "The One Good Thing" is a book that will both inspire you and leave you thinking deeply about secrets and lies and the power of the truth. Nathan Steen is a character who, in the story, has set a tremendous example not only for his family but for countless people who he touched by his acts of kindness each and every day. He would be at risk of being a character who is "too perfect", except the author cleverly wove the theme of selflessness into a story that also deals with the after affects of discovering that someone was holding onto a life-changing secret. The story alternates between the viewpoints of several different people, but flows together very well into a truly entertaining and enjoyable whole. I enjoyed each of the different characters whose eyes the readers get a chance to look through, seeing the story from multiple perspectives, and felt they were developed well. Kevin Milne is a gifted author, one who writes with heart-stirring prose, throws in a bit of mystery, tackles deep subjects like bullying and grief and abuse, and leaves the reader longing for just one more chapter!

This is the first novel written by Kevin Milne that I have had the pleasure to read, but it certainly will not be the last. I strongly recommend this story, particularly those who love a good contemporary novel, and award it 4.5 out of 5 stars.

Book has been provided courtesy of the publisher, Center Street, for the purposes of this unbiased review.

about the author...

Image of Kevin Alan Milne
Kevin Milne was born in 1973 in Portland, Oregon. Although Oregon was always considered home, he also spent portions of his childhood in Virginia, Hawaii, and California. In 1991 he graduated from Sherwood High school, followed by undergraduate studies at Brigham Young University, then an MBA from Pennsylvania State University. As an adult he has lived in such varied places as Vermont, New Jersey, Nevada, Austria, and Croatia.

Since beginning his writing career in 2007, Milne's novels have been reproduced in 16 languages worldwide. His first published work, "The Paper Bag Christmas", was converted to a stage play in 2011.

Today, Kevin resides once more in his home town of Sherwood, Oregon. He and his wife, Rebecca, were married in Washington DC in 1995, and are the proud parents of five children.

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Sunday, March 24, 2013

Just what your kids were looking for: My review of "The New Pony" by Catherine Hapka, Anne Kennedy

Pony Scouts: The New Pony

about the book...

The Pony Scouts are becoming better at riding with every lesson. But just when they think they've seen it all, a new horse arrives on Jill's farm—one who hasn't been ridden before! Taffy is a beautiful palomino pony that needs Jill's help. With a little patience and a lot of love, Jill and the Pony Scouts will make Taffy a member of the family.

This is the seventh title in the Pony Scouts I Can Read series, making learning to read a galloping good time.

my review...

I don't know if your girls are anything like mine, but if they are then they love anything and everything to do with horses. So when I placed a copy of "Pony Scouts: The New Pony" in their hands, they were super excited! We immediately dove into the story, and both of my girls fell in love with the Pony Scouts and the new palomino pony that arrived on the farm. They even learned a new term about what it means for a pony to be "green", something they found quite funny when they realized it refers to an untrained horse! The illustrations are lively and colorful, and perfectly complement the story. The book is written at the Level 2 of the "I Can Read" stage of reading, and my grade 1 daughter was able to read most of the book with some prompting. The story captured all of our attention throughout, and my children have read the story numerous times since it has arrived on our doorstep.

If you are looking for a fun, well-written children's book for your developing reader, then look no further than this latest addition to the Pony Scouts series. I and my children strongly recommend the book and award it a rating of 4 out of 5 stars.

Book has been received courtesy of the publisher, HarperCollins, for the purposes of this unbiased review.

about the author & illustrator...

Catherine HapkaCatherine Hapka is the author of many books for children of all ages. She is too tall to ride ponies, though her mare, Gerri, still looks like one. Catherine takes riding lessons twice a week and lives on a farm with Gerri, three goats, a small flock of chickens, and too many cats.

Anne KennedyAnne Kennedy loves her big spotted gelding, Frosted Art (whom she called Frisco). In addition to being completely pony crazy, Anne enjoys dogs, movies, chocolate, and illustrating beautiful books. She lives with her family in Ohio.

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Saturday, March 23, 2013

Explodes into action from the first scene: My review of Proof by Jordyn Redwood


Dr. Lilly Reeves has put her troubled childhood behind her, and now lives a successful, largley content life as an ER physician. However, after she becomes victim to a brutal crime, she plumets into darkness, struggling to make her way through each day. When DNA evidence clears the suspect of his crimes, Lilly decides to find the proof she needs to put the perpetrator away forever. As she forays into a "mystery that science cannot comprehend", she finds herself on the run from evil, with her very life at stake.

Proof explodes into action from the first scene, full of dark suspense that made me regret reading the novel late at night! I know a writer has thoroughly succeed at drawing me into a story when every creak in the dark makes me jumpy and convinces me someone has broken into my house. Jordyn Redwood writes as one who has far more experience under her belt, with taut scenes, crisp dialogue, and just the right of characterized balanced with the suspense. Her characters are full of life, and I enjoyed getting to know Lilly and watch her relationship with Nathan unfold. I am so grateful that I don't have to wait long until I get to dive into book 2 in the Bloodline Trilogy, because I have become a new fan of Jordyn Redwood! Readers who haven't yet tried out this relatively new author should really plan on picking up a book by Jordyn Redwood. They will be thoroughly entertained and left longing for more! I highly recommend this book and award it 4.5 out of 5 stars.

Book has been provided courtesy of the publisher and Kregel Blog Tour services, for the purposes of this unbiased review.

about the author...

Jordyn Redwood has specialized in critical care and emergency nursing for seventeen years. A member of both the American Association of Critical Care Nurses and the American Christian Fiction Writers association, Jordyn lives in Colorado.

Winner of giveaway for "Unrivaled" by Siri Mitchell

Congrats to Brian, who won a copy of Siri Mitchell's latest book:


Those who didn't win, check out the 2 current giveaways I'm hosting, including:

So Shines the Night  Home Run: A Novel

Good luck,


Friday, March 22, 2013

Beautifully written: My review and GIVEAWAY of "Home Run" by @travisthrasher

Check out my review of "Home Run", a novelization by Travis Thrasher based on the movie by the same name. And be sure to enter a giveaway for your own copy!

Home Run: A Novel

about the book...

Baseball star Cory Brand knows how to win. But off the field, he's spiraling out of control. Haunted by old wounds and regrets, his future seems as hopeless as his past.

Until one moment-one mistake-changes everything. To save his career, Cory must go back to the town where it all began. His plan is simple: coach the local baseball team, complete a recovery program, and get out as fast as possible. Instead, he runs headfirst into memories he can't escape ... and the love he left behind.

Faced with a second chance he never expected, Cory embarks on a journey of faith, transformation and redemption. And along the way, he discovers a powerful truth: no one is beyond the healing of God. A novel based on the major motion picture starring Vivica A. Fox and Scott Elrod, Home Run is an inspirational story of the hope and freedom God offers each of us.

my review....

Beautifully written and achingly real, "Home Run" will sweep you up into the power of a well-told story, and it just may change your life at the same time! Cory Brand is a character who broke my heart from the first pages of the story, and who I amazingly continued to care about despite the fact that there were moments I just wanted to give him a good shake. Travis Thrasher, and the creators of the movie that this novel is based on, have created a complex character in Cory, one who perfectly illustrators how broken our lives can become and how addictions can take over every part of a person. Cory could be your neighbor, your parent, your spouse, your friend, everyone you know who is struggling with pain and heartache and trying to cope with life. It may even be you! However, "Home Run" not only paints a portrait of what a broken life looks like, but also reminds us of the power of God's grace, of God's ability to take a broken piece of clay and mend it back together with his love. It's a message that needs to be told, and Travis Thrasher has told it well!

Wonderful prose and a storyline that will invoke deep emotion combine to create an unforgettable story in "Home Run", a story worth celebrating. Pick up this book - you will be glad you did. And I don't know about you, but I'm planning on watching the movie version too!

5 out of 5 stars.

Book has been provided courtesy of the publisher, David C. Cook, for the purposes of this unbiased review.

about the author...

Image of Travis Thrasher
Critically acclaimed and creatively diverse novelist Travis Thrasher has made a career out of defying expectations.Writing stories that have moved, haunted and provoked readers, Thrasher has told tales in a variety of genres. His one common theme is brokenness, and his one common tactic is surprise. He lives with his wife and three daughters in a suburb of Chicago.

For more information on Travis, go to

This biography was provided by the author or their representative.

Check-out more about the movie at:

Buy the Book


I am giving away 1 copy of "Home Run" to readers from the U.S. and Canada, courtesy of the publisher, David C. Cook

You can get 1 entry into the giveaway for each task you perform:

1. Become a follower of my blog (through Google Followers or Networked Blogs) then leave a comment confirming you became a follower. If you are already a follower, just leave a comment that you already follow and I'll give you 1 entry for that.

2. "Like" my Facebook page, and let me know you did so in a comment. (The link is at the top of the webpage). Let me know if you've already liked it, and I'll give you an entry.

3. Post about the giveaway on your own blog or on twitter or facebook and leave me a comment. You get 1 entry for each method of spreading the word!


4. Leave a comment answering the following question: "Do you know anyone who struggles with addiction issues? How have you supported them?"

++ Please include your email address in your comment so I can contact you to arrange to get the book to you.

That's all there is to it! Contest Ends April 5, 2013

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Still at the top of her game: My review of "Truth Stained Lies" by Terri Blackstock

Truth Stained Lies

about the book...

Cathy Cramer is a former lawyer and investigative blogger who writes commentary on local homicides.

When she finds a threatening note warning her that she’s about to experience the same kind of judgment and speculation that she dishes out in her blog, Cathy writes it off as mischief … until her brother is caught in the middle of a murder investigation---the victim is his ex-wife. As her brother is tried and convicted in the media, and bloggers and commentators like her have a field day, Cathy wonders if she should have taken the threat more seriously.

Cathy and her two sisters, Holly and Juliet, moonlight as part-time private investigators, working to solve their brother’s ex-wife’s murder. Juliet, a stay-at-home mom of two boys, and Holly, a scattered ne’er-do-well who drives a taxi, put aside their fear and lack of confidence to learn the art of investigation.

But will it be too late to save their brother from a murder conviction, or his five-year-old son who’s the killer’s next target?

my review...

Truth Stained Lies offers up a wonderful blend of nail-biting suspense and strong characterization, making for a thoroughly entertaining read! I literally read through the novel in one sitting because I couldn't wait to see how everything would resolve. Would Jay's innocence be proven? Would his son Jackson be reunited with him? Would Cathy, Holly, and Juliet be able to find the killer? Terri Blackstock did a fantastic job of leading me from scene to scene, unfolding the truth one step at a time, all while causing me to fall in love with a family of characters I hope to meet again in future books! The characters are complex and realistic, with much to admire while still being completely human, people every reader can relate with. I also loved the overarching themes of the book, that God has a plan for our lives, that good triumphs evil, that forgiveness deals bitterness a blow, and that we are destined to do great things for God. Elements of faith are woven into the book in an utterly natural way without coming across as preachy, something that isn't always easy to do.

Terri Blackstock is at the top of her game, and Truth Stained Lies is not only a masterfully told suspense story, but beautifully showcases deeper themes of life as well. It is quite a ride, and I know you are going to love it! So grab a copy and dive in - but be prepared to lose sleep before you can finally put the book down! I highly recommend this book, and award it 5 out of 5 stars.

Book has been provided courtesy of publicist Ashleigh Martin from HarperCollins, Canada. Available at your favourite bookseller from Zondervan, a division of HarperCollins.

about the author...

Terri Blackstock ( has sold over six million books worldwide and is a New York Times bestselling author. She is the award-winning author of Intervention, Vicious Cycle, and Downfall, as well as such series as Cape Refuge, Newpointe 911, the SunCoast Chronicles, and the Restoration Series.

Ready to buy?

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

A fitting conclusion to an excellent series: My review of "The Tempted Soul" by Adina Senft

The Tempted Soul: An Amish Quilt Novel

about the book...

Carrie Miller longs for children, but after ten years of marriage, that blessing eludes her. So she fills her days with caring for her home, making artistic gifts and fancy cakes, and caring for her flock of chickens, every one of whom has a name and who under no circumstances will go in the soup pot. Carrie also finds support in the friendship she shares with her two best friends Amelia and Emma, and relishes the weekly afternoons they share working on their quilts.

Carrie and her husband Melvin love each other, and together have survived many lean years. If not for the kindness of their church community, they would have had to miss more than one meal a day. But now, Melvin has found work that finally provides a good living. Carrie hopes that having more to eat will finally allow them to start a family. Yet month after month, they remain childless. So when Carrie overhears two English women talking in the fabric store one day about medical options available to non-Amish women in her situation, she takes it as a sign from God. Melvin and the bishop see it differently, however. Is it really God's will that she pursue this, or is her longing to be a mother tempting her to stray from her Amish beliefs?

my review...

The third book in the "Amish Quilt" series reunites readers with the wonderful characters of Carrie, Amelia, and Emma. Although all the books explored some difficult themes, I found that the The Tempted Soul's focus on issues of infertility made for some deep moments with the characters. This installment in the series didn't contain quite the level of humor for me that the first two books in the series did, but there were plenty of moments that left me smiling as these characters grappled with the mess of humanity while in an Amish setting. The voices of the characters continue to have an authentic Amish tone to them, and I greatly enjoyed the author's portrayal of life in their community as they wrestled with their Amish beliefs. Ultimately, these characters bring to life the beauty of submission, even when you don't always agree entirely with the situation. My faith was challenged by these Amish characters who display love and forgiveness and turning the other cheek. I'm not sure that I'd be able to be Amish myself, but I continue to be surprised by how much I can enjoy a good Amish book - and this is one of them. There is much to celebrate and much to learn from the Amish community, and these characters are so real to me now that I wish they lived next door!

I strongly recommend this book as well as the first two contributions in the series, and award it 4.5 out of 5 stars. If you haven't yet had a chance to read a novel by Adina Senft, then I encourage you to seize this opportunity and give this series a try. No doubt you'll be glad you did!

Book has been provided courtesy of the publisher, Faithwords, for the purposes of this unbiased review.

about the author...

Adina Senft grew up in a plain house church and was often asked if she was Amish. (The answer was no.) She holds an MFA in writing popular fiction from Seton Hill University in Pennsylvania, where she is part of the adjunct faculty. Between books, Adina enjoys playing the piano and Celtic harp, making historical costumes, and spoiling her flock of rescued chickens.

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Tuesday, March 19, 2013

A great children's product for Easter: My review of "my very first Easter Story Sticker Booker"

My Very First Easter Story Sticker Book

Just in time for Easter is a fun book for children, "My very first Easter Story Sticker Book". Written in kid-friendly language, author Lois Rock tells the true story of Easter, of Jesus coming to Jerusalem riding on a donkey, Jesus' last supper with the disciples, Jesus being betrayed and put to death on a cross, and Jesus rising back to life. The story is told on the top half of pages 1 to 6, with activities portrayed along the bottom of the pages, such as asking the children listening to the story to count how many sparrows are in the picture. At the end of the book is "The Story of Jesus" told in 8 simple picture frames, followed by an Easter prayer.

I don't know about you, but any story that my children can interact with is an instant winner, and this book is no exception! Not only did the children enjoy reading the easy-to-understand Easter Story, but they absolutely loved taking the stickers off the sticker page and finding the missing pictures where they could put them. They also enjoyed the activities included in the story as well. The pictures are bright and interesting, and children are sure to be captivated by the many little details included in each scene, such as pictures of animals or flowers or butterflies. Author Lois Rock and illustrator Alex Ayliffe together have made a winning combination that is sure to please children and their parents who want to help them learn the true meaning of Easter.

If you are looking for a book that is sure to bless the child in your life this Easter Season, then be sure to look for a copy of "Easter Story Sticker Book". I award this book a rating of 4.5 stars out of 5.

Book has been provided courtesy of the publisher via the Kregel Blog tour service, for the purposes of this unbiased review.

About the authors...

LOIS ROCK is the author of numerous children's titles that have been translated into more than 30 languages, and total sales of her books worldwide are well over 4 million copies. Lois lives in Oxfordshire and enjoys cycling around the Chilterns with her husband. She is the mother of three children and has helped lead church children’s groups for many years – experiences that she draws on when writing. Published exclusively by Lion, her best selling books are My Very First Bible, My Book of Bible Stories, and The Jesus Encyclopedia.

ALEX AYLIFFE has an established reputation as a storybook illustrator, working with major publishers including Orchard, Ladybird and Hodder Children’s Books. Her trademark papercut illustrations are bright and bold, yet dainty and detailed, with lots of character. She won the Sainsbury Best Books for Babies Award for Boo Barney (Little Orchard) in 2000, and My Very First Bible (Lion Children’s Books) won the Children’s Book of the Year Award at the Christian Booksellers’ Convention in 2004.

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Monday, March 18, 2013

Preview and review of "10 Questions Kids Ask About Sex" by Bill & Pam Farrel

10 Questions Kids Ask About Sex: *Knowing What to Say*Guiding Them to Wise Decisions*Giving Age-Appropriate Answers

Get a preview of Bill and Pam Farrel's latest book, courtesy of FIRST Wild Card Tours, and see my review at the end!

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!

Today's Wild Card authors are:

and the book:

Harvest House Publishers (March 1, 2013)

***Special thanks to Ginger Chen for sending me a review copy.***


Bill Farrel: Bill and Pam Farrel are international speakers, authors of over 30 books, and relationship specialists who seek to help people become “Love-Wise.” Their books include Men Are Like Waffles—Women Are Like Spaghetti (over 290,000 sold), Red-Hot Monogamy, Single Men Are Like Waffles—Single Women Are Like Spaghetti, and The 10 Best Decisions a Couple Can Make. They have been happily married for 32 years and are parents to three children, a daughter-in-law, and two small granddaughters. The Farrels live in San Diego, California.

Pam Farrel: Pam Farrel and her husband, Bill, are the authors of Men Are Like Waffles—Women Are Like Spaghetti (more than 290,000 copies sold) and Red-Hot Monogamy. In addition, Pam has written 52 Ways to Wow Your Husband and The 10 Best Decisions a Woman Can Make. They are cofounders and codirectors of Love-Wise, an organization to help people connect love and wisdom and bring practical insights to their personal relationships.

Visit the authors' website.


Every parent wants to help their children make wise choices. Now Bill and Pam Farrel approach one of the scariest topics of all: teaching kids about sex. Full of real-life examples, biblical inspiration, and laugh-out-loud illustrations, 10 Questions Kids Ask About Sex will engage parents and enable them to succeed!

Product Details:
List Price: $12.99
Paperback: 208 pages
Publisher: Harvest House Publishers (March 1, 2013)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0736949194
ISBN-13: 978-0736949194


How Can I Talk to You?

Do everything in love.

1 Corinthians 16:14

At some point, every parent and child will ask, “How can I talk to you about this?” The simplest question about sex from the mouth of your child can send shivers up the back of all of us. And our kids will have hundreds of questions about love, sex, dating, and relationships as they grow up! When it does happen, when they do ask those sometimes hard-to-answer questions, we grown-ups often vacillate between feeling all flustered and tongue-tied or traveling clear to the other end of the spectrum and getting a heart-pounding sense of duty to communicate everything on this delicate subject perfectly so as not to warp our children forever. Often we feel much like the parent in this story:

One day a grade-schooler came home and in the middle of doing her spelling homework she asked her mother, “How do you get babies?”

Flustered, the mother rambled, explaining about the birds and bees and body parts. She waxed on about moral responsibility and wise choices. Her daughter sat wide-eyed and mouth gaping open as she tried to process the barrage of information.

The next day while the little girl sat doing her homework again, she proclaimed to her mother, “Mom! I know how to make babies!”

Mom smiled, thinking the talk had gone better than she first thought. Then her daughter said, “Our teacher told us today. You drop the y and add ies!

Imperfect in delivery—but this mom’s heart was in the right place because she cared! And you care too. You picked up this book because you care. You care about your child’s, your tween’s, or your teen’s well-being. You care about his or her choices. You care about every part of their lives, even one of the most sensitive, yet most vital areas of their soul: their sexual identity, sexual choices, and future sexual enjoyment. You are to be commended. As a parent, you are a cut above average. You are willing to step out and step into the whirlwind of controversy, questions, and continual avalanche of information (some good and some bad) on this topic. You are reaching out and walking into this unknown place because deep in your heart, you want to protect your child from pain and provide him or her with the happiest possible future. If we could give you a medal for being a brave, concerned, involved parent, we would. You are our hero, but more importantly, you are a hero to your son or daughter.

What Is a Hero?
Because this book was written during wartime, with the media daily flashing stories of the heroic, we want to draw a comparison between you, the parent, and our brave men and women in uniform who fight to defend our democracy and liberty. They put themselves in harm’s way on our behalf. These heroes do so because they believe in a greater cause: freedom.

We had the awesome honor of being asked to speak at Walter Reed Army Medical Center for the soldiers in the Wounded Warrior unit at a couples’ date night. One of the soldiers there shared a list of his injuries with us: brain trauma, shrapnel throughout his body from an exploding IED, a broken shoulder, and a leg shattered from the knee down. The broken leg wasn’t discovered for months after the explosion because this soldier just kept using it!

I (Pam) was so overcome with emotion, I fumbled for words. “Oh, dear! That is quite a list! I am thankful you are here…thankful you are alive!”

He replied, “I promised my family I would come home. They can try to blow me up. They can shoot my legs out from under me. They can break my shoulder so bad that with every step it sends excruciating pain throughout my body. But if I can move, if I can crawl, if I can drag myself forward, if my heart is still beating in my body, I will come home—whatever it takes—whatever it takes!”

Everyone within earshot—especially his wife—was crying at his heroism. The soldier had hobbled and crawled for miles, every move sending searing pain through his body. He had vowed to make it to safety so his kids and family could be safer too. His desire to stay alive for his children imprinted a heroic picture of love in my mind. But his words “Whatever it takes, whatever it takes,” compelled and motivated us once again to never give up, never give in when it comes to our own children.

Whatever It Takes
The Bible shares a story of a great hero, a hero to our hearts, souls, minds, bodies, and futures. One of the writers of the New Testament, Paul, explained the hero’s actions this way:

In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name (Philippians 2:5-9).

The hero I’m talking about? Jesus. He wasn’t thinking about Himself when He died on the cross. He was thinking about you; He was thinking about me; He was thinking about our kids and His desire to set us all free from the chains of our own sins. We were on His heart and He was so other-centered He did whatever it took to keep us free.

This passage also calls us to follow His other-centered mindset. And this command is repeated numerous times, as in Ephesians 5:1-2: “Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us.” We are to walk in the “way of love”—His sacrificial love. Living with others in mind is heroic because it is counterintuitive. We are all born selfish, after all. Heroism goes against our fallen nature. By nature we would rather opt for self-protection. And that self-protective attitude can make us timid rather than heroic. If you’re honest with yourself, when it comes to talking to your children and planning how to best care for and guard their futures, thoughts like these might have already gone through your mind. They’ve sure gone through ours!

All this sex talk makes me feel uncomfortable!
What if I give them stupid advice?
What if I am not the cool parent anymore?
What if my child doesn’t like what I say?
What if my child doesn’t like me because of my views?
What if I look bad because I didn’t do everything right?
All those statements have the word me or I in them. They are self-focused. When it comes to helping your child, you have to decide in your heart that it is not about you: It’s about your kid and it’s about God. When you make that choice, you, as a concerned parent, are placing the needs of your child first. That is a heroic decision.

Heroes Need Help Too
Heroes don’t have to know everything. Here are some legitimate questions you might ask yourself as you teach your child about sex:

How do I know when to begin talking about sex with my child?
What do I say? When should I say it? And where should it be said?
How can I balance protecting my child’s innocence yet make him or her savvy enough to not follow the crowd or be abused?
Who can I trust to help me figure this out?
What do I do if I made mistakes in the area of sex and dating? How can I give advice to my own kid when I messed up so badly?
How can I be tactful and tasteful yet specific and accurate?
How can I handle my own pain or fears if I was abused, yet still hand down a positive view of sex to my kids?
Where do I find the guts to do this?
You are not alone in your questions, fears, or discomfort. One journal in pediatric medicine explains,

Because most parents do not feel comfortable or competent talking with their adolescents about sexual issues, they tend to limit conversations to “safe” topics, such as developmental changes (e.g., menstruation and other pubertal changes), impersonal aspects of sexuality (e.g., reproductive facts), and negative consequences, such as AIDS and sexually transmitted diseases. In contrast, parents tend to avoid or cover in a cursory way more private topics, such as masturbation, the psychological and experiential aspects of sexuality such as orgasm or sexual decision-making, and how to obtain and use condoms. It is, therefore, not surprising that a significant majority of both adolescents and parents feel dissatisfied with such restricted communication about sexuality. In general, teenagers perceive a gap between the topics that their parents cover during sexual discussions and the more delicate topics about which they are concerned.  

It is our goal in this book to lessen your stress—and the stress on your children—by offering some easy-to-use researched information, quick-to-find tools, and helpful conversation starters. And we’ll try to make you laugh along the way, because there’s nothing like laughter to take the awkwardness out of having “the talk!”

A Battle for Love
Why spend so much time reminding you that you’re the hero of your kids’  hearts and lives? Because it’s a battle out there! What with the discourse and dialogue about sexual choices, the definition of marriage and family, the discussion of what is right, moral, pure, good, and healthy, the most intimate, personal issue of all—sex—can become a battlefield strewn with land mines.

There are two opposing ways to view sex: One is God’s, the other, Satan’s. God’s view is that sexual love is made for what I can give. It is to be protected through the context of marriage. Satan tells us that sex is for what I can get. In this view, sex is to be exploited until it uses up everyone in its path.

On September 11, 2001, thousands of men, women, and children died at the hands of terrorists. The terrorists succeeded in their destruction in part because America was taken by surprise. Who would ever think of such a heinous crime as to fly planes full of innocent people into an office building full of more innocent people? Only those who embody evil could hatch that plot. We wrote this book so you will not be taken by surprise as a parent. Be assured, the evil one is hatching plenty of plots to ravage the children we love so dearly.

The enemy of our soul wants to “steal and kill and destroy” while Jesus says He came that we “may have life, and have it to the full”  (    John 10:10). God also gave us all the ingredients to make relationships function in a healthy manner: The fruit of the Spirit is “love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” And God’s definition of love is clear:

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails (1 Corinthians 13:4-8).

And that is what we all want for our kids, right? We want them to be able to produce an enduring love that protects, perseveres, and provides a life filled with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and fidelity. And if you are like us, you pray that someday each of your children will find someone to love them this same wonderful way.

Teaming up with God to help your children reach the goal of loving by God’s design and being loved that way in return will take your heroic love. Your parental love must become a love that always perseveres and a love that does whatever it takes to provide the best for your son’s or daughter’s future.

Statistically speaking, most of the people who read this book will have some chapters they wish they could forget in their past. They wish they had done a few things differently growing up. But it’s time to set aside shame, guilt, and finger-pointing. Some of you didn’t know God’s plan for love, so how could you follow it? Others had a rebellious, wild-oats-sowing season of your life and you might have regrets. We don’t want you to feel any worse than you probably already do. We just want to help you help your own kids. That’s what heroic love does. It sets aside self-interest for the greater good of another.

Commit now to set aside your own issues and do what’s best for your kids. Are you willing to be heroic, no matter how much time, talent, energy, bravery, and resources it takes?

A Sacred Wedding Is Heroic
Two of our three children are married now, and we are delighted with their choices of a life partner. We prayed for those dear daughters-in-law for many years! And like us, you might already be praying for the person God has in mind for each of your children. We prayed specifically and daily for the young ladies each of our sons would someday marry. I (Pam) remember praying this prayer for our child’s future spouse the day we got the news we were going to have our first baby. We prayed many things for that baby still in utero:

that the child would form safely
that he or she would love God completely
that he or she would follow God wholeheartedly
that he or she would be protected from the evil of this world
that he or she would reach the God-given plan for his or her life
that he or she would one day take full responsibility and decide to make wise choices
that he or she would someday find a mate who also loved God with a whole heart
And on each wedding day, as that bride walked down the aisle, all those prayers of all those days echoed in our hearts and minds. That beautiful bride, that handsome groom, joined their lives in holy matrimony. It was a sacred moment. They would form a new family and the values we held so dear would pass from our generation to a generation yet to come. That is exactly God’s goal: to pass Christ-centered values and His plan of love from generation to generation:

One generation commends your works to another;
 they tell of your mighty acts.
They speak of the glorious splendor of your majesty—
 and I will meditate on your wonderful works.
They tell of the power of your awesome works—
 and I will proclaim your great deeds.
They celebrate your abundant goodness
 and joyfully sing of your righteousness.
The Lord is gracious and compassionate,
 slow to anger and rich in love.

Psalm 145:4-8

Wedding days are filled with happiness, joy, and love. The wedding ceremony is the vessel that demonstrates that love to the world. As people observe the love shared between the two people exchanging their vows, they gain the opportunity to see God and His love. The closer the couple is walking with Jesus, the better their love radiates God’s love.

We have been trained in all kinds of outreach and evangelistic methods, but it is the simple love we share that has had more people asking us, “What do you have that makes your lives and marriage so different from mine?”  At that moment, we have the delightful opportunity of sharing how anyone can receive and be lavished in the love of God. All they need to do is surrender to His plan and His path for their future—plans that God promises will give them “hope and a future” (    Jeremiah 29:11).

Sharing a vibrant sexual life in the marriage bed is one of the ways God shares a picture of His love. When it works the way He intended it to, sex in a healthy relationship is a real-life portrait of God’s relationship with us. Sex within marriage is one of God’s strongest tools of connecting a couple so their love best reflects the unity and passion of His love. Since relationships are at the core of how God communicates His love to us, let’s take a look at His view on this gift of sex.

God’s Ladder of Love
When you’re climbing a ladder, you start out with the first rung and then climb to the next—and then the next rung after that. Follow this progression with us.

Sex Was God’s Idea
Sex was God’s secret a long time before it was “Victoria’s Secret.” God initiated the idea of sex to keep the human race going. He could have decided on any technique, but He elected for a relationship; an act of biology so intricate that it worked at its best between two people who were committed to each other for a lifetime. To ensure this model would work, God set up the human race by creating just one man and one woman—two who were literally “a match made in heaven.”

The man gave names to all the livestock, the birds in the sky and all the wild animals. But for Adam no suitable helper was found. So the Lord God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man’s ribs and then closed up the place with flesh. Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man. The man said, “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called ‘woman,’ for she was taken out of man.” That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh. Adam and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame (Genesis 2:20-25).

What a great picture of sex in a committed relationship! You could say God performed the first wedding ceremony when he actually created Eve for Adam! God ordained a one-man, one-woman marriage from the very beginning. In that context, this couple could be naked and not feel any shame. There were no others at the creation of marriage—just this one man and one woman. From their union the whole history of humankind would be produced.

Marriage Was God’s Idea
The first place we see God endorsing sex in this new marriage in the garden is at the Creation:

So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it” (Genesis 1:27-28).

Sex in marriage was created before the fall of mankind. Can you imagine sex with the perfect person God created for you, in an unadulterated environment, natural and wholesome, with no negatives attached because Satan hadn’t yet entered the scene? (It was after Satan tempted Eve that things like PMS and pain in childbirth were set in place.) Sex before the fall had no shame, no guilt, no pain…it was all good!

Marriage Is a Reflection of Christ’s Relationship with the Church
“For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church (Ephesians 5:31-32).

Did you catch that last bit? God designed sex to be a reflection of Christ’s love and Christ’s commitment to the church. Inversely, it would seem, sex outside the bounds of matrimony, sex not carried out according to those biblical passages, is not a reflection of Christ’s relationship toward us. That is exactly what Satan wants—sex that’s distorted and all about what it can get! Satan wants to rob from your child’s future instead of preserving one of the most special gifts God ever designed for him or her.

Sex in Marriage Was God’s Idea
That is exactly why Satan hates the entire notion of love, marriage, and the pure, holy use of sex within the context of marriage. It gives God glory, and the devil hates that! Satan wants the glory all to himself, and that is why he is literally hell-bent on distorting sexuality, twisting love, and mocking the value of integrity, fidelity, holiness, and obedience to Jesus. And Satan will do anything to win, even if it is destroying the love life, physical wellness, or future of your child.

Which leads us back to why you are so heroic, Mom and Dad. You are standing in the way of Satan’s plan for ruining your child’s life and future. You are the precious protector and guardian of his or her destiny. Your goal is to protect your child while you equip him or her to protect their own life with good choices and decisions.

You Hold the Keys
Mom and Dad, you hold the key to your child’s future. Our friend Dave told us a beautiful story about this that penetrated me to the core. When his daughter Jody was a very little girl, she came home and announced her love interest in a little boy. Dave said to her, “Honey, when you are much older, there will be a day when you will want to give your heart to a man. He will have to be really special, and you will need to feel confident that he is the one God wants you to marry. Until then, I will keep your heart. I will keep it safe.”

Dave’s wife made a heart that hung in their home. On it hung two gold keys, one for each daughter. Anytime Dave prayed with his daughters, tucked them into bed, or performed any of the other daily interactions a loving father would have with his daughter, he’d say, “And who has the key to your heart?” His daughters would answer, “You do, Daddy.” Anytime he had to set a rule or make a correction he would begin with, “Remember who has the key to your heart?”
And the girls would answer, “You do, Daddy.” Then Dave would explain that because he, their daddy, had their best interests on his heart, he had to make decisions and choices to protect and provide the very best path for his daughters. Dave would explain, “God has called me to do this because God and Daddy love both of you little girls very much.”

Dave shared, “One day Jody met and fell in love with a fabulous man, Chris. She came to me and asked if she could have her heart now because she had found the man she wanted to give it to. I agreed and prayed and released her heart.”

On the day of their wedding, Dave asked Jody one last time, “Who has the key to your heart?” But this time the answer was different. It was the name of her new husband.  

You, Mom and Dad, hold the key to both protect your child now and provide a hope for a happy future in his or her marriage. It is as if you are a security guard for an invaluable treasure.

Emergency Broadcast―This Is Not a Test!
We’re all aware of the emergency warning systems alerting us to things like flash floods, hurricanes, and tornadoes. I wish that same sound would go off when adults shirked their calling—I know I would like that kind of obvious signal!

In the area of sexuality, moral integrity, and fighting for the purity and futures of our children, we are in a state of emergency. This is not a test! Consider just a few of the more startling statistics:

Nearly half of U.S. high school students surveyed in 2011 had had sex, a third of them in the previous three months. Of these, almost 40 percent did not use a condom and 77 percent did not use birth control. About 15 percent of these students had had sex with four or more partners.  
Eighty percent of evangelical young adults (ages 18 to 29) say they have had sex before marriage. Of these, 64 percent have done so within the last year and 42 percent are in a current sexual relationship.  
In 2009, more than half of births to American women under 30 occurred outside marriage.  
Worldwide there are approximately 42 million abortions every year.   In 2008 there were 1.21 million in the United States alone—that’s 3,321 abortions every day.  
One woman in four will be sexually assaulted during her lifetime. In a survey, one in twelve college men admitted to raping women. Thirty-five percent of college men indicated that they would rape a woman if they could be assured of not getting caught.   (Getting caught is helping: DNA evidence has lowered the incidence of rape in the United States.)
Adolescents and young adults are at the greatest risk for acquiring an STD such as AIDS, chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis, and genital herpes. About 19 million new infections occur each year, almost half of them among people aged 15 to 24.  
50,000 new HIV infections occur each year in the United States. In 2009, young persons accounted for 39 percent of all new HIV infections in the US.   There is still no known cure for the death sentence of HIV/AIDS. Medicines only lengthen life and lessen symptoms.
Add to this all the gender identity confusion fueled by homosexual activists like Daniel Villarreal, who admits that gay activists actually do want to indoctrinate America’s children: “We want educators to teach future generations of children to accept queer sexuality,” he says. “In fact, our very future depends on it.” He bragged that their agenda was even broader than mere indoctrination. “I and a lot of other people want to indoctrinate, recruit, teach, and expose children to queer sexuality and there is nothing wrong with that” [emphasis his]. Writing in response to opposition of the same-sex marriage bill in New York, Villarreal said, “Recruiting children? You bet we are.”  

What is the outcome of all this? Rebecca Hagelin, author of 30 Ways in 30 Days to Save Your Family, notes, “A sea of teenagers are living with regret. 55 percent of the boys and 70 percent of the girls who had sex now say they wish they had not.”  

Mom and Dad, they need your help to rescue them from becoming a statistic.

Respond to the Emergency
Obviously God wants us to respond to what is going on around our children and in this culture. But what are we to do? First, be a watchman. In Ezekiel 3:17 God rouses the prophet: “Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the people of Israel; so hear the word I speak and give them warning from me.” You are like the sentry or watchman making rounds or stationed on a wall as a lookout—and your task is to be vigilant. But vigilant doing what? What’s a watchman supposed to do?

Watchmen work around the clock. “I have posted watchmen on your walls, Jerusalem; they will never be silent day or night” (Isaiah 62:6).

Watchmen patrol the streets to preserve order. “The watchmen found me as they made their rounds in the city” (Song of Songs 3:3).

Watchmen sound a warning. “When the lookout standing on the tower in Jezreel saw Jehu’s troops approaching, he called out, ‘I see some troops coming’ ” (2 Kings 9:17).

Watchmen submit their duty to God. “Unless the Lord watches over the city, the guards stand watch in vain” (Psalm 127:1).

Watchmen are vigilant at all times. “Go, post a lookout and have him report what he sees…let him be alert, fully alert” (Isaiah 21:6-7).

In the Old Testament, God shows us how seriously He takes the role of the watchman:

When I bring the sword against a land, and the people of the land choose one of their men and make him their watchman, and he sees the sword coming against the land and blows the trumpet to warn the people, then if anyone hears the trumpet but does not heed the warning and the sword comes and takes their life, their blood will be on their own head. Since they heard the sound of the trumpet but did not heed the warning, their blood will be on their own head. If they had heeded the warning, they would have saved themselves. But if the watchman sees the sword coming and does not blow the trumpet to warn the people and the sword comes and takes someone’s life, that person’s life will be taken because of their sin, but I will hold the watchman accountable for their blood. Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the people of Israel; so hear the word I speak and give them warning from me (Ezekiel 33:1-7).

Now God set this principle in place in the Old Testament because in addition to the spiritual battle zone they found themselves in, Israel was waging a physical war for their very survival as a nation. That is not what we are dealing with (at least not yet!), so the consequence for slacking is not death, but the point is clear: The watchman’s job was so vital that a stiff penalty was in store for those who shirked on their duty. Today, if you make an error as a parent, God is not going to wipe you off the face of the earth.

However, if you miss something important in your son’s or daughter’s life or surroundings, chances are you will have a bigger battle on your hands. Anytime anyone steps out of God’s design for living, things get confusing, messy, and sometimes traumatic. Being a watchman is work, but not watching out will just lead to more work! So being a watchman is a prudent choice for a parent to make.

Our kids need a watchman in us because there are really only two ways to live: smarter or harder. Following God’s path is smarter (though you and your child will need to be diligent to learn then walk God’s best path). And not following God’s plan is definitely harder. It is hard to deal with your child’s pain after someone has used him or her for their own sexual gratification. It’s hard to manage an unplanned pregnancy. It’s hard to watch a heart slowly harden toward a walk with Jesus. All those things are much harder than being vigilant up front. Being a watchman is definitely the smarter way to go.

In the book of Isaiah comes an intriguing question: “Watchman, how far gone is the night? Watchman, how far gone is the night?” (Isaiah 21:11 nasb). We’re deeper into the night than we think.

Here’s one example from the book You’re Teaching My Child What?

I’d been invited to speak at a small private college outside Philadelphia. The auditorium was filled to capacity…After [my talk] I asked for questions, and a number of hands shot up…A dark-haired girl in the front row raised her hand. “I’m a perfect example of what you talked about. I always used condoms, but I got HPV anyway, and it’s one of the high-risk types. I had an abnormal Pap test, and next week I’m going to have a colposcopy…But I thought it over,” she continued, “and I decided that the pleasure I had with my partners was worth it.”  

This is a mind that has lost its ability to reason, or has never learned how to reason at all. Either way, it is far into the night. The risk of death was not as important to this young woman as a few moments of sexual pleasure. The author goes on to write, “She’ll never know—is the virus gone, or just dormant? Had anyone told her that having one sexually transmitted disease makes her more vulnerable to others, including HIV? That being on the pill could increase her risk, and that pregnancy can re-activate the virus?”  

The night is getting darker. People young and old are losing their bearings, their ability to make vital, life-saving decisions. That is why God is looking for heroes—ordinary moms, dads, leaders, teachers, and youth workers who will hold the torch of His original plan for love and intimacy. God is looking for you! Be a watchman, and be able to say, “Day after day, my lord, I stand on the watchtower; every night I stay at my post”  (Isaiah 21:8).

If Not You, Then Whom?
If we as parents neglect to instruct, lead, guide, and dialogue with our kids, then where will they get the information to make decisions and form their views? They will be swayed by the media, by friends, and by the educational system.

The Media
American children spend more than 38 hours a week using media. That includes television, videos, music, computers and video games. One study showed that 75 percent of all music videos include sexual images. More than half are also violent—usually against women. The average teen will come across nearly 14,000 sexual references in the media each year. Only about one percent of these will talk about birth control or the risk of pregnancy and STDs.  

Dr. Dave Currie of Doing Family Right Ministries shares a story of how even well-meaning parents and grandparents can be forced to clean up the mess media so easily can make:

A father had approached me with the tragic story of how well-meaning grandparents had given an iPad to a much-loved grandchild. This 11-year-old, with her curiosity and a push from her peers, had googled the word “sex.” She was traumatized. Thankfully, she came to her parents about her extreme confusion to talk and pray through the defiling impact these sexual images had had on her.  

If not the media, what about the influence of friends? Dr. Currie continues his story:

Don’t say it can’t happen to your family. It did ours. When my youngest daughter was at a sleepover for a friend’s thirteenth birthday party, the girls, in daring and unsupervised group fashion, managed to get on an adults-only dating website. They thought they would have fun creating a fictitious profile but used their pictures. It went from innocent though stupid to dangerous when one girl went back later and put real contact information for our daughter—our phone number! I am so glad God protected us as I was the one who received the call from an older man wanting to speak to her. He back-peddled hard when he found out she was just 13 and I was her dad!  

That is a picture of the mayhem media can cause—but also how valuable it is to have a hero for a dad!

You will hear much more about media, its influence, how to manage it, and how to monitor it in your kids’ lives in coming chapters. We’ll also discuss the role of good and not-so-good peer choices. Stay tuned!

We might think we are safe to delegate sex education to the school—but is that actually the best choice? Dr. Miriam Grossman pulls back the curtain on what schools are really teaching our kids:

Parents, if you believe that the goals of sexuality education are to prevent pregnancy and disease, you are being hoodwinked. You must understand that these curricula are rooted in an ideology that you probably don’t share. This ideology values, above all—health, science, or parental authority—sexual freedom.…

…Do you want instructors, whose personal values might be at odds with yours, to encourage your kids to question what they’ve been taught at home and at church, and to come up with their own worldview based on taking sexual risks that endanger their health and wellbeing? It seems reasonable to question the ethics of this practice.

What these “experts” are hiding is their goal of bringing about radical social change, one child at a time…From a review of many of today’s sex ed curricula and websites, it would appear that a “sexually healthy” individual is one who has been “desensitized,” who is without any sense of embarrassment or shame (what some might consider “modesty”), whose sexuality is always “positive” and “open,” who respects and accepts “diverse” lifestyles, and who practices “safer sex” with every “partner.”

This is not about health, folks. This is about indoc-

In coming chapters we will look more intently at sex education, who should do it, and when. We’ll look at what parts (if any) you might want to delegate and, if you outsource any pieces, whom do you trust? And what do you say and when to help your son or daughter make wise, godly choices in the future?

Your job as a watchman is to work yourself out of a job. While your children are younger you are the watchman on the wall, but in their tween and teen years you will be giving them on-the-job training to become a watchman over their own lives. As they gain the heartbeat of God, they will take over their own lives, choices, and decisions. They will develop their own inner moral compass. The long-term goal is that you will raise children who will grow so strong, articulate, smart, and capable that they will positively influence the culture around them, and the culture will begin to better reflect the heart of God and His plan for this world.

Can We Talk?
One day your child will ask, “Can we talk?” (At least that is what we hope and pray they will do—ask you!) You’ll need to have some basic principles in place to help you best respond to the questions he or she poses. In each chapter, we will give you some helpful sidebars, real illustrations, useful lists, vital statistics, and other “need-to-find-quickly”  information. And for those talks with your son or daughter we will provide a checklist of bullet points in the “Answers to Have Ready”  section. This way, as you are discussing each particular area you will have the broad brush strokes that you can then personalize and mold into your own words.

We will also provide what we call Parent-to-Parent talking points so you can form valid, sustainable conversation with other moms and dads—some of whom may not always agree with you. In the world we all live in, with a majority of the population lacking a solid internal moral compass based on a biblical worldview, it is vital to prepare yourself well. This way you can, in turn, prepare your children well to defend your beliefs, values, and morals and represent them to the glory of God in the public arena. Often these conversations just appear on the soccer sidelines, as you work on a school project with other parents, over a dinner out, or at a family gathering. You may also be called to represent Christ’s worldview on sexuality, gender, or moral choices in the public square, on social media, in the boardroom, or in the classroom. We hope these bullet points and some of the resources we point you to will help you as you prepare your words.

Whether you are debating and dialoging with adults, seeking to explain the birds and bees to a child, or formulating your thoughts for a vital talk with your teen, know that no matter how much you prepare, at some point you can (and need to) relax and trust God. He promises He will be with you:

You’ll end up on the witness stand, called to testify. Make up your mind right now not to worry about it. I’ll give you the words and wisdom that will reduce all your accusers to stammers and stutters (Luke 21:13-15 msg).

If you do whatever I command you and walk in obedience to me and do what is right in my eyes by obeying my decrees and commands, as David my servant did, I will be with you (1 Kings 11:38).

When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior (Isaiah 43:2-3).

Answers to Have Ready
Here are the basic talking points for that first conversation (and all the rest yet to come). More details will be in future chapters, but keep these principles in mind as you prepare to dialogue with your child or teen.

Talk First
Talk about body parts, touching, and the fundamentals of how babies are made. Cover the basic biology before they hear about it on the playground. Talk about body changes before they happen and feelings for the opposite gender before they are interested in the opposite sex. Talk about healthy, God-ordained sex in marriage before you have to deal with distortions of sex by Satan.

Talk Enough
Give them 20 percent more information than they ask for. Be tactfully explicit—not abstract. Answer the question with a short answer first, wait for a response, and then offer more details as you need to.

Talk Positively
Positive messages are better than negative. Instead of saying “don’t do this or that,”  try to reframe it into an affirmative. For example, instead of telling a tween or teen that premarital sex is bad, so don’t do it, tell them that sex is a good gift and that is why it is to be protected until expressed in marriage.

Talk Honestly
Use accurate medical terms instead of nicknames for body parts. Be straightforward and tell your child why you want to talk about the next layer of sexual information. And if you lacked in judgment in an area growing up, share this information at an age-appropriate time.

Talk, Then Listen
Learn to listen, not just lecture. Practice questions like: Have you heard the term _____? Do you know what _____ is? What have you heard from friends about _____? How do you feel about what I just shared? Do you have any questions about what I shared with you?

Talk Wisely
Help your child gain a moral compass, good decision-making skills, and the confidence to act on what God whispers to his or her heart. Place sex within the context for which God created it. Get your ducks in a row and be prepared for what you think might be the next sexual question or topic that might come up. If surprised, feel free to say, “Wow, that’s a great question. Let me get some information together for you and we’ll chat about this later (today, tomorrow, over a burger, etc.).”

Talk Calmly
Don’t freak out. Some topics might come up before you want them to. Try to talk with your child gently and reasonably, without getting emotional or frazzled. Take a few breaths, pray, take a walk, or whatever you need to do so that your emotions are in check and stable.

Talk in a Positive Place
If you make the place and experience a positive one each time you discuss sexual matters, your child will connect sex talks to feelings of closeness with you and/or your spouse. He or she might link these moments to happy, joyful, or positive emotions if they take place in a calm location: sitting on your bed or the child’s or over ice cream, a burger, or other favorite food. (Our sons preferred all our talks to take place over steak or carne asada burritos!) For those “big talks” we often would link them to a fun family activity, like boating, skiing, a day at the beach, or a family picnic.

Talk after Praying
As you pray for your child, God will give you insights either through His Word or through the leading of His Holy Spirit. He will help you find the words to use and the best time to lead your child to make wiser choices. Don’t worry: He’ll give you all the specifics to best prepare you for success as you lead your child to make wise choices.

Talk Expecting Your Child Wants to Talk
Your son or daughter wants to hear from you. Here’s what one survey tells us:

More than half of 12th grade girls (53%) said that during their high school years they wanted to be able to talk to their parents about love and relationships. Nearly four in 10 (39%) wanted to be able to talk with their parents about sex…As they look ahead to the years immediately after high school, those numbers remain largely unchanged. Half (50%) still want to talk to their parents about love and relationships…Forty percent say they want to be able to talk about sex with their parents once they’re out of high school.  

Talk United
It might seem easier to talk to Mom, but the united two-parent approach has the best outcome.  In addition, those teens who live in intact homes with Dad involved are much less likely to be involved
in premarital sex and risky behaviors.  In our work as youth pastors, in the senior pastorate, and as the parents of three sons, we have seen that having the father involved makes a tremendous difference. If Dad is available as a positive, active role model for his sons and daughters, the children will make better choices. It is in your child’s best interest (if possible) to involve both parents in discussions on love, sex, and dating.

Bring God into the Talk
Moral and religious convictions do make a difference. One study indicated that girls were less likely to have premarital sex if their mothers cited moral or religious reasons in their discussions. (Conversely, the more liberal the daughter perceived her mother’s values to be, the more likely she was to have sex—and have it younger and with more partners. ) In a recent study, 45 percent of boys ages 15 to 19 cited religion to be a factor in their sexual decisions.  

Talk Because It Makes a Difference
According to authors Stan and Brenna Jones, “The closer the child says his or her relationship is with parents, the less likely the child is to be having sex. A close relationship between parent and child appears to instill in the child the desire to want to live out the values and moral beliefs of the parent.”   In a national survey more than nine of ten teens agreed that among the benefits of waiting to have sex is enjoying the respect of parents.  Mom and Dad—you do make a difference!

God is with you. God is with your child. Together you can be a winning team—a heroic team—building a future to look forward to.

Parent to Parent
You will be a better role model for a healthy attitude toward sex if you have a clear view of just why God created sex. We thought we’d share a thumbnail sketch with you of the five reasons God created “Red-Hot Monogamy”—because if we as parents are comfortable and well-centered in our sexuality, it will be easier to have those much-needed discussions with our children and teens.

God Gave Us Sex for Procreation

Be fruitful and increase in number (Genesis 1:22).

The human race is perpetuated through sexual union: One egg is fertilized by one sperm.

God Gave Us Sex for Recreation
And it came to pass, when he had been there a long time, that Abimelech king of the Philistines looked out at a window, and saw, and, behold, Isaac was sporting with Rebekah his wife (Genesis 26:8 kjv).

Sex within the context of marriage is to be enjoyed.

God Gave Us Sex for Reconnection
Do not deprive each other except by mutual consent and for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer. Then come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control (1 Corinthians 7:5).

Sex is meant to keep couples emotionally, physically, and spiritually connected.

God Gave Us Sex for Rejuvenation
Strengthen me with raisins, refresh me with apples, for I am faint with love (Song of Solomon 2:5).

Sex within marriage is good for our emotional and physical wellness.

God Gave Us Sex for Proclamation
He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church—for we are members of his body. “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church (Ephesians 5:28-32).

Sex is a picture of the complete love and commitment intended for marriage. Marriage reflects Christ’s love for the church.

Answers for Your Heart
Before you have answers for your child, you need to ask yourself a few questions and get some answers. You may want to get a journal and answer these or grab a cup of coffee and discuss them with your spouse. You can also use them for a discussion group of moms or co-ed parent study to help prepare for a lifestyle of building a great relationship with your child or teen.

Looking back, how comfortable are you with your own sexual choices growing up?
The best thing you can do for your child’s future is to provide an intact two-parent family or, if single, an extended family that will partner with you to provide the much-needed role of the absent parent. What can you do to either strengthen your marriage or create an extended family support network?
How do you feel about talking with your child at the different ages:
as a toddler/preschooler
as a grade school student
as a tween
as a teen
as a college student or young adult
as an adult
What would best prepare you to feel ready for conversations with your child or teen?
How can you move forward in getting your own heart, mind, and emotions ready for the parenting God has in front of you?

my review.... 

Bill and Pam Farrel's latest book for parents is an absolute gem! Containing information that is both practical and interesting to read, "10 Questions Kids Ask About Sex" is a wonderful how-to guide for parents pondering how to help their children learn about sex while protecting them from the negative aspects of the sexualized culture around them. The book draws upon the Farrel's personal experiences, and has that ring of authenticity that makes it easy for me to trust them in what they are telling me. Teaching your children about sex and sexuality is one of the most important tasks that we must do as parents, and this book provides timely information to help us to do that in a God-honoring manner. Sex is celebrated as a good gift from God, a treasure to be protected, and it is a message that is needed now more than ever as the next generation seems to have embraced an "anything goes" philosophy.

This is one of those books that has earned a permanent place on my shelf. I strongly recommend this resource to parents, and award it 4 out of 5 stars.

Book has been provided courtesy of the publisher and FIRST Wild Card for the purposes of this unbiased review.